WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A ‘sky glow’ that has caught the attention of scientists is not the same as the aurora borealis.
- Scientists said it might be a new type of celestial phenomenon, but it’s completely unknown.
- According to researchers, Steve—the purple ribbons of light that seem to appear with the auroras—is stranger than they thought.
Dazzling streak of glowing purple light pierced through northern Canada’s night sky on July 25, 2016. The celestial phenomenon has since been dubbed as “Steve” by sky watchers.
Steve was initially thought to be an aurora — the majestic, gleaming ribbons of light that appear in the sky because of plasma particles that come down to Earth’s magnetic field and into Earth’s upper atmosphere. But, based on a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on August 20, 2018, “Steve”, despite its colorful flowing light, is not an aurora.
“Steve” does not typically have the aurora characteristics of charged particles jolting through Earth’s atmosphere, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Calgary in Canada.
Space physicist Bea Gallardo-Lacourt at the University of Calgary remarked “Our main conclusion is that STEVE is not an aurora…so right now, we know very little about it. And that’s the cool thing.”
Gallardo-Lacourt and her colleagues named the mysterious rays of evening light “sky glow.”
For years, Steve has been a familiar spectacle for photographers and sky watchers in northern regions. However, scientific research about the unexplained streaks of light only got documented this year. Researchers even made an acronym for the colorful spectacle, STEVE – “Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement”.
In comparison to the wide bands of green and blue light emitted by the northern lights, Steve usually appears as a thin, ribbon-like purple glow that arcs upward into the evening sky, spanning hundreds of miles.
Steve made yet another appearance across northern Canada’s skies on March 28, 2018. It was recorded on sky and ground-based equipment, giving researchers, including Gallardo-Lacourt, a chance to study the recorded data.
“Based on our results, we assert that STEVE is likely related to an ionospheric process,” Gallardo-Lacourt concluded.
Currently, Steve’s origins are still “completely unknown” and it would require more data taken at the atmosphere’s different heights to entirely explain the origins of that stunning purple streak phenomenon.
Source: Live Science